Friday, August 5, 2011

Curtis Fuller: The Story Of Cathy & Me

Curtis Fuller (trombone)
The Story Of Cathy & Me (Challenge Records; 2011)

The last few years have been filled with adversity for the great trombonist, Curtis Fuller. But, he has poured that pressure into an exhilarating mixture of music inspired by love, honour and devotion. The main source of that inspiration has been his beloved wife, Cathy, who passed away a few years ago. 

As with I Will Tell Her (Capri; 2010), his latest,  The Story Of Cathy & Me (Challenge Records) is devoted to the life of his esteemed spouse. It's a story carried out over three phases of their life together. How they met. Their life together and with children. And finally how his life has been affected without her.

The personality and journey of both these devoted lovers is announced and carried through over the course of the next hour by both the delicate compositions as well as four interludes in which Fuller describes particular events and emotions of their relationship. The opening, "Little Dreams" seems appropriate, with light yet playful melody accentuated by Nick Rosen on piano and Lester Walker's trumpet. But the drive and most effective force is of course Fuller, who adds some juicy and very characteristic passages midway through. "I Asked And She Said Yes" with a Latin tinge is bouncy but pulls into a hard bop vibe with some strong punches from Fuller and Lester Walker on trumpet.

The journey continues on "Look What I Got" a midtempo piece with another slightly Latin feel thanks to Akeem Marable on percussion. But that's only a light touch. It's the performance by the entire ensemble that really transforms this piece into something more than just a midtempo love theme. There are some solid and touching notes delivered by the horn section along with Fuller's direction and ability to make the trumpet feel like multiple instruments at once. That's not say the work of Daniel Bauerkemper (sax) and Lester Walker goes unnoticed. By contrast, its an added element brings out the best in their leader.

"Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year" closes out the album on the music standpoint. It's a somber piece mainly led by the effective keys of Kenny Banks Jr. with Fuller, and the horns and texture just underneath. Brandy Brewer injects some beautiful notes on bass making this an even more tearful conclusion to the journey of Curtis and Cathy. "Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year" is a still picture with passionate lyrics from Fuller and a lovely way to say so long for now.

The Story Of Cathy & Me is simply an excellent testament to marriage, life and journey of two lovers. But it is also a beautiful document of one's continuing struggle to fight through adversity and loss. It still brings out the best of one of the remaining living giants of jazz. Excellent stuff and highly recommended.

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